ALL FINALISTS / CHARISSE PEARLINA WESTON

Charisse Pearlina Weston

media
location
is a Houston-born, Brooklyn-based conceptual artist and writer whose practice is grounded in deep material investigations of poetics and the autobiographical, photography, sculpture, and installation. Through the use of these materials, her work explores the intimacies and interiors of Black life.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I don’t think there was a specific moment. In high school, however, I went on a field trip to two local museums, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which are across the street from each other. The CAMH was showing Glenn Ligon’s text pieces referencing Richard Pryor and James Baldwin, and the MFAH had a retrospective of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work. Both exhibitions blew me away for reasons I couldn’t articulate at the time, but now I believe had to do with the rigor and uniqueness of those two artists’ investigations into Black life. Seeing their work transformed the way I was thinking about what art could do and the questions I could ask through it.

What drew you to the medium you work in?

I’m an interdisciplinary artist, so I work across mediums. What draws me to work with certain materials is their relationships to the concepts I am exploring. I started working with glass initially to solve a very specific display issue, but I quickly realized its incorporation into my practice enriched the work I was/am doing around Black experience because its material contradictions embody so many things at once. Eventually I began conceptualizing glass as both the risk of anti-Black violence and the capacity for Blackness to evade and transform in the face of and in spite of that violence.

Tell us about your working style, ideal studio environment, or any routines you have.

I go through long phases of research before moving into very fast production phases.

If you could travel back in time to give advice to your younger self, what would you say?

I would tell myself to not waste time being afraid to do things, to try things. And also to ask myself earlier on, What's at stake in the work? Why is it necessary right now?

Move Left
Move Right
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Courtesy the artist; Photo: Paul Salveson
Courtesy the artist; Photo: Paul Salveson
untitled (lean/wire fuses)
Material: Enfolded glass etched with text
Dimension: 25 × 30 × 5 in. (63.5 × 76.2 × 12.7 cm)

In this ongoing body of work, Weston explores the symbolic and material uses of glass in modern architecture as a signifier of intimacy, freedom, and power. She links the material’s use in surveillance technology to the concepts of social disorder and criminality outlined in the 1982 essay “Broken Windows,” by sociologists George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, and their relationship to Black identity. Considering how this seemingly neutral material has affected Black intimacies, interiors, and spatial movement, Weston proposes acts of withholding through concealing gestures in her sculptures, such as enfoldment and layering, as symbols of Black resistance in intimate areas of Black life.

Courtesy the artist
untitled (lean/wire fuses) (detail)
Material: Enfolded glass etched with text
Dimension: 25 × 30 × 5 in. (63.5 × 76.2 × 12.7 cm)
Courtesy the artist
I am moored along the soft shored unity of impatient ruin
Material: Enfolded glass etched with text
Dimension: 30 × 20 × 10 in. (76.2 × 50.8 × 25.4 cm)
Courtesy the artist
I am moored along the soft shored unity of impatient ruin
Material: Enfolded glass etched with text
Dimension: 30 × 20 × 10 in. (76.2 × 50.8 × 25.4 cm)
Courtesy the artist
I am moored along the soft shored unity of impatient ruin (detail)
Material: Enfolded glass etched with text
Dimension: 30 × 20 × 10 in. (76.2 × 50.8 × 25.4 cm)
Courtesy the artist
An Appeal but, in Particular, Very Expressly, To (i sink)
Material: four channel sound installation of glass sound sculptures, shattered tempered glass from black notes, lathe-cut vinyl records, record player
Dimension: Dimensions variable

A four-channel sound sculpture, An Appeal features glass domes fashioned after upturned flowerpots, based on the research of scholar Saidiya Hartman as published in her book Scenes of Subjection (1997). Hartman found that enslaved Black people would use upturned objects such as pots and washbasins in an attempt to muffle their voices when secretly gathering. The kiln-molded glass serves to both diminish and amplify sound. In this work, the materiality of glass symbolizes the duality of precarity and precocity of Black life.

Courtesy the artist; Photo: Paul Salveson
An Appeal but, in Particular, Very Expressly, To (i sink) (detail)
Material: four channel sound installation of glass sound sculptures, shattered tempered glass from black notes, lathe-cut vinyl records, record player
Dimension: Dimensions variable

The sound component features samples from Pepsi-Cola’s 1960s sponsored vinyl record series Adventures in Negro History, specifically the second record, "The Frederick Douglass Years", along with field recordings and soul/blues songs sung by the artist. Weston combines these with spoken poems derived from text found in David Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles (1829) and Frederick Douglass’s famous speech “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro” (1852). The Pepsi record series signified the emergence of marketing by a white corporation especially targeted to the Black consumer, and its multimillion-dollar success marked Black people as “viable” consumers for other American corporations.

Courtesy the artist; Photo: Paul Salveson
An Appeal but, in Particular, Very Expressly, To (i sink) (detail)
Material: four channel sound installation of glass sound sculptures, shattered tempered glass from black notes, lathe-cut vinyl records, record player
Dimension: Dimensions variable

The sound component features samples from Pepsi-Cola’s 1960s sponsored vinyl record series Adventures in Negro History, specifically the second record, "The Frederick Douglass Years", along with field recordings and soul/blues songs sung by the artist. Weston combines these with spoken poems derived from text found in David Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles (1829) and Frederick Douglass’s famous speech “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro” (1852). The Pepsi record series signified the emergence of marketing by a white corporation especially targeted to the Black consumer, and its multimillion-dollar success marked Black people as “viable” consumers for other American corporations.